BOWLING FOR A CHANCE
UConn needs win to be bowl-eligible
UConn cornerback Dwayne Gratz makes a tackle against Pittsburgh during a UConn football game played at Rentschler Field in Hartford. JESS CONDON/The Daily Campus
Many thought UConn's season would not come to this. It was all but assumed - especially by UConn fans themselves - that the Huskies were dead in the water.
Back on Oct. 19, the Huskies were manhandled in every way possible by the Syracuse Orange over in the Carrier Dome. The loss put UConn at 3-5 on the year and the Huskies needed to win three out of their next four games to make a bowl game.
The rest of the schedule looked daunting. Of the teams UConn was yet to play, the list included Pittsburgh at home, Louisville on the road and Cincinnati at home.
Only the South Florida game on Nov. 3 down in Tampa looked easily winnable.
The Huskies lost 13-6.
Things were sliding downhill quickly. UConn needed three wins in as many games just to reach .500 and make a bowl game, but the offense didn't show any signs of life. Many were calling for coach Paul Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone's jobs.
What a difference a month makes.
The Huskies crushed Pittsburgh in the first half, and despite a sloppy second half, beat the Panthers 24-17.
Then UConn traveled to Louisville to face the Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. When the dust settled and overtime was finished, UConn came out on top 23-20. Not only did UConn win, but it was kicker Chad Christen who sealed the victory for the Huskies, bouncing back from UConn's loss to Temple on Oct. 13 in a game in which he missed four field goals.
Now, it's the last day of November and UConn is a win away from being bowl eligible.
Although nothing looks different, everything has changed.
The Huskies are still, for the time being, in the Big East despite all that's changing around them.
Pasqualoni said Tuesday that the conference realignment hasn't been too big of a distraction for his players. He said that UConn football just wants to take care of its own business. But he does believe that the dust is going to settle soon.
UConn's defense is still stifling. Despite the statistical anomaly that occurred back on Oct. 19, when UConn gave up 40 points to Syracuse, UConn's defense is still one of the 20 best units in the country statistically. The Huskies are giving up just over 18 points per game.
The Huskies still don't look good when winning and are sketchy when they have a lead. Even when UConn goes up big early, like the Huskies did against Pittsburgh, it still feels dangerously like the opponent could mount a comeback.
Against Louisville, UConn was winning 10-0 going into the fourth quarter. With 3:01 to go, the Cardinals took the ball down 10-3 and were able to score with the little time they had and force overtime.
UConn won, but it wasn't pretty.
The Huskies are still ranked among the worst in the nation in rushing yards per game and the offense is far from what anybody would call "explosive."
Even with all that, here it is. The Huskies have a chance at making a bowl game. Only 9-2, 4-2 Cincinnati stands in the way of a storybook finish for this year's seniors.
Tuesday, Pasqualoni admitted that the Bearcats are dangerous and that the Huskies have their work cut out for them.
On defense, the Huskies have the challenge of stopping the talented George Winn, a back who has accumulated over 1100 yards this season.
"This is probably going to be the best all around back that we've seen this year," Pasqualoni said.
UConn had better bring its A-game.
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